Classic Singers 6 – Elvis Costello

Okay…let’s talk about Elvis Costello; the man writes a great song. He hit the headlines first with his album My Aim IS True which spawned such sings as Alison and Less Than Zero. Watching the Detectives was on the US release of this album. His visual style and rather unique voice were immediately recognisable. This was 1977 and he was competing with punk and heavy metal – and disco. But he has an ear for lyrics and a good melody; he consequently sold well.

The next album was This Year’s Model  which included such classics as Pump It Up and I don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea. It reached No. 4 on the UK charts. His next album did even better with Armed Forces reaching No 2.  This album had Oliver’s Army on it, which became an international hit. He followed it with Get Happy, another No.2 on the album charts in the UK. This was a more soulful album This was, in my opinion, the peak time for Elvis Costello, and he also produced The Specials first album. He also wrote the song Shipbuilding which Robert Wyatt released in 1982.

He went on with various band changes, releasing an album of country songs (Almost Blue), having more hits such as Every Day I Write the Book and is still singing now.  In 2002 he released the single Tear Off Your Own Head, It’s a Doll Revolution, subsequently covered by the Bangles on their album Doll Revolution. As sacrilegious as it sounds, I prefer the Bangles version (sorry Elvis). Elvis Costello still tours, records and performs. And so he should. The man has built a great portfolio of music.

The songs

Pump It Up This is an awesome piece of pop with a punk / ska influence released in 1977. It is possibly my favourite Elvis Costello song. The guitar riff and excellent backing band (The Attractions) make this an instant toe-tapper. There is no over-production and it just rocks.

She – This was part of the Notting Hill soundtrack – and is a ballad covered by Elvis Costello that shows his abilities in a different style of music. It is a laid back song that starts with a piano and his voice (and some quiet strings). In my opinion this song that really shows Elvis Costello’s voice.

Veroncia – co-written with Elvis Costello, this is pure pop released in 1989. I recall hearing this while I was at university in Plymouth.  Perhaps these guys should write more together. The horn part in this also makes a great contribution and is quite reminiscent of the Beatles at times.

Watching the Detectives  –  being a bit of a sucker for ska and ska influenced music, I love this song. It was one of his earlier ones, and captures the genre with his own quirky influence.

Oliver’s Army – I can’t not include this song. The overall package makes it, perhaps, one of the stand out singles for the late 70s. The melody is great, the lyrics, a bit of satire, and the performance fantastic.

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon). Real name Peter Tapsell...just started off writing under a pseudonym and kept going.

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